Hiccups for some voters as primary ballots cast

Posted at 6:56 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-15 18:56:47-04
After a law went into effect last month giving voting rights to felons, this year's primary is the first test of how that will work. However, close to three dozen felons received letters in Baltimore city telling them otherwise.
And that's central to why Perry Hopkins, an organizer for low-income advocacy group Maryland Communities United, is upset. A new law that took effect last month means felons on parole and probation are eligible to vote upon release, but Hopkins said at least one person got a letter saying they were ineligible to take part in the primary.
In a statement on the matter, city elections director Armstead Jones attributed the problem to an "old procedure" that hadn't yet caught up with the new law. He said the situation was remedied when they contacted the 34 people who got similar letters.
Hopkins, though, said those 34 people are the ones that contacted his organization directly, and then contacted elections officials. The real number could actually be higher.
"If they have an address and residence in the city of Baltimore, they're eligible to vote. It's just that simple," Hopkins said. "They're causing these voters undue hardship."
The Baltimore elections board declined to comment beyond their written statement, but added that they believe the problem has been resolved.
Early voting totals this year well eclipsed last year's early totals.
Goucher College political science professor Nina Kasniunas said key races bring excitement.
"It's an indication of what's to come," she said. "In Baltimore, you have a mayoral race where there is no incumbent. And on top of that you have the senate race, which again is an open seat. And lastly, we have a presidential nomination, which on both sides of the aisle, is still open." 
Rep. Elijah Cummings' vote for mayor may already be settled as he cast his ballot at the Westside Skills Center Friday afternoon after he endorsed Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Democratic state senator. He also endorses former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, running for the Democratic presidential nomination.  
"We're at a point in our city's history where we're very fragile," Cummings said, standing next to Pugh after he cast his vote.
As of noon Friday, Cummings' vote was one of more than 6,100 submitted in the city since polls opened Thursday. Statewide, that number neared close to 50,000, according to elections officials.

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